The Sopris Sun

Sopris Theatre Company presents ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’

Sopris Sun Staff Report

It’s a story so embedded in our psyches that many of us refer to it off handedly. Who hasn’t teased a cold-hearted friend that she’s acting like Nurse Ratched?

Sopris Theatre Company is bringing the award-winning play “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to the New Space Theatre at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley on April 14-23.

The play, based on a novel by Ken Kesey, centers on the story of McMurphy, who’s faked his insanity to avoid a prison sentence and ends up in a psychiatric hospital. The novel was adapted into a play by Dale Wasserman in 1963, and later an Academy Award-winning film in 1975 based on a screenplay different from the play or book, according to a press release.

The play has had two revivals. In 2001 it a Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award, both for outstanding revival of a play. Equal parts comedy and drama, the play features characters who will make you laugh and cry as you watch how institutionalism and individual freedom collide.

Because of adult themes, the play is not suited for those under 15 years old.

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Curtain time for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is 7 p.m. on April 14-15, and 20-22, and 2 p.m. on April 22-23. Tickets are $18 for adults, and $13 for students, seniors, and CMC staff and faculty. For more information or tickets, go to coloradomtn.edu, or call 947-8177.

Ken Kesey

Many folks remember Kesey from his novels “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion” and also as the central figure in Tom Wolfe’s non-fiction book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” You might not know that Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado in 1935, and moved with his parents to Springfield, Oregon when he was just a few years old.

His parents were dairy farmers. He was a star wrestler and football player in high school, and went on to wrestle at the University of Oregon, according to published reports. In college he also developed an interest in theater. Kesey married his high school girlfriend Norma Faye Haxby in 1956, and after briefly considering a career as an actor, relocated to Palo Alto, California, when he won a scholarship to the graduate program in writing at Stanford University.

While attending Stanford, in 1960 Kesey volunteered as a paid experimental subject in a study conducted by the U.S. Army in which he was given mind-altering drugs and asked to report on their effects. He also worked as an attendant in a hospital’s psychiatric ward. These experiences served as the basis for “Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1962. In 1975 the book was made into a film directed by Miloš Forman and starring Jack Nicholson. Kesey reportedly hated the script and refused to watch the film, but many other people didn’t. After receiving much critical acclaim, it would go on to take all five of the major Academy Awards—for best picture, director, screenplay, actor and actress. Kesey died in Oregon at the age of 66.

Dale Wasserman

The late Dale Wasserman wrote the play of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1963. The play only lasted 82 performances on Broadway but was later produced in two revivals, the first of which was off-Broadway in 1971, then as a Broadway production with Gary Sinise as McMurphy in 2001.

Besides Sinise, McMurphy has been played on stage by Kirk Douglas in the original production, Leonard Nimoy, Christian Slater in the U.S. and others abroad.


Published in The Sopris Sun on April 13, 2017